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Kinder goes to Ferguson for ‘cleanup day’

FERGUSON, Mo. — Lt. Governor Peter Kinder spent his morning in Ferguson picking up trash and pulling vines alongside hundreds of volunteers in a cleanup day sponsored by KMOX personality Charlie Brennan.

Kinder, a Republican candidate for Governor in 2016, appears to be emphasizing his ties with black communities surrounding Ferguson — as well as with minority voters in general — as evidence of his broad appeal as a candidate. Kinder, who spent much of the morning pulling vine from a chain link fence, said he wanted to “send a message” to the people of Ferguson.

“My message is the same as when I announced, we are all in this together,” Kinder told The Missouri Times. “No matter what part of Missouri you’re from, what we suffered was damaging to the whole state. I want to do my part to get us back where we were and, I hope, even better, than we were before. It’s kind of like the ethic I was taught in the Boy Scouts: you leave the campsite cleaner and tidier than when you pitched your tents and arrived.”

Brennan hosted the event ahead of the one year memorial of the shooting death of Michael Brown — which sparked waves of local and national protests and arguably the flashpoint of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which remains active today — when local officials expect national media to return to Ferguson.

Kinder has been vocally critical of Gov. Jay Nixon’s actions throughout the unrest that plagued Ferguson and parts of St. Louis County and City that led to highway shutdowns, arrests, and widespread reports of police brutality. Kinder took to national television on more than one occasion, but became especially critical of apparent decision by Nixon’s office not to deploy National Guard Troops into Ferguson on the night of Nov. 24, when it was announced that a grand jury would not be indicting the officer that killed the unarmed, 18-year-old Brown.

“What happened [on the 24th] was one of the great tragic failures in the history of state government,” Kinder said. “[Nixon] allowed those two towns to burn. He turned those streets over to criminals.”

Nixon has long defended the night’s decision to keep the Guard at bay, at times citing the desire to avoid a repeat of the events of Kent State. After announcing his campaign two weeks ago in neighboring Dellwood, the three-term lt. governor promised to spend much of his campaign focused on the events of Ferguson.

“I’m going to talk about it a lot,” Kinder said.